SPORTS >> Numbers clearly tell the tale of North Pulaski’s loss
Leader sports editor
There must be as many ways to quantify North Pulaski’s offensive futility on Saturday as there were missed Falcon shots (46, for the record).
You could begin with the 0-for-11 start or you could refer to the 0-for-6 start to the second half. You could point out that the Falcons went 3 for 10 over the final two minutes of the third period … and raised their shooting percentage nine points.
What makes it all noteworthy is that, despite their almost unbelievable shooting woes against Greene County Tech, the Falcons lost by only five points. So let’s just go through some other numbers and remember that, if North Pulaski’s shooting had been merely exceptionally bad and not awful, it would likely be the 5A champs today.
– North Pulaski came into the game shooting well above 50 percent from the field, meaning their 19.3 percent performance on Saturday was almost 40 points below their average.
– After Ware’s 7-of-13 shooting, the rest of the Falcons made only 4 of 44. Take out DaQuan Bryant’s 4 of 13 and everyone else went 0 of 31.
– North Pulaski’s first basket came on a Ware runner with 41 seconds left in the first period. After missing its next eight shots to drop it to 5 percent shooting at 1 of 20, North Pulaski got its only other first-half bucket with 2:03 left in the second period on a Ware three-pointer.
– Ware recorded the Falcons’ first three field goals. It wasn’t until Bryant scored on a putback with 2:17 left in the third that another Falcon scored from the field. Ware and Bryant were the only two Falcons to record a field goal.
– The Falcons’ 9-of-36 shooting in the second half actually raised its overall field goal percentage 10 points.
– Normally a solid three-point shooting team, North Pulaski made just 3 of 19.
– It wasn’t just the jumpers that weren’t falling, though. The Falcons missed 12 lay-ups in the contest while making only three.
ONE TO FORGET
One of the best shooters in the state and also one of its best point guards will have to find a way to put this one behind him.
Aaron Cooper, normally a deadeye on the perimeter, missed all 10 of his three-point attempts and all 17 of his field goal attempts.
Two factors might help explain Cooper’s uncharacteristic struggles from the field against the Eagles: A bad back and the five inches he was giving up to 6-4 defender Chase Halbrook.
“With his back being hurt, he didn’t have the explosion that he normally has,” said North Pulaski head coach Raymond Cooper, who is also Aaron’s father. “He didn’t even tell me he was hurt. But I looked (on Friday) and the whole left side of his back was swollen.
“He never asked to come out, but I could tell he could not … when guys play him that close, he’s normally going to go around them. And today, he just settled for jump shot after jump shot and they wouldn’t fall.
“He’s made so many big shots for us. There’s nobody else I would rather have take those shots.”
Cooper dejectedly walked off the court with a towel draped over his head. But after a few days of reflecting on what might have been, he probably ought to keep in mind that these Falcons, who lose only Ware among their starters on Saturday, have a chance to redeem themselves next year.
SHOULD HAVE REMINDED THEM
Ray Cooper looked shell-shocked when he walked into the media room minutes after his Falcons had gone colder than a naked Eskimo swimming in the Bering Sea.
“I thought defensively we played great,” he said. “If somebody would have told me that we would hold them to 39 points, I would have told them that we would beat them by 20 before the game … The defense was absolutely great. The effort and intensity was there. I thought we played tough …
“All the things we talked about that we needed to do before the game, we did. And I guess I didn’t talk about making some baskets, so guess I left that one part out.”
WE'LL LET YOU SHOOT THOSE ALL DAY
Greene County Tech took only four three-pointers, 15 fewer than North Pulaski. Of their 28 points from the field, 22 were in the paint. The Falcons, on the other hand, got only 10 of their 25 points from the field in the paint.
“As far as offensively, I’ve been (at the finals) for five years in a row (as a coach or spectator), and I’ve never seen a jump-shooting team win the state championship,” Eagle coach Scott Bowlin said. “The teams that win the state championship are the teams that attack the glass. I’ll let you shoot those outside shots all day long. When you’ve got a state championship on the line, we’re going to go for the glass.”
There was one problem with that, according to Ray Cooper: The Eagle defense was using defensive tactics that made it hard for his Falcons to attack the basket.
“We were getting to the lane and they were running under our legs,” he said. “It was something we watched on tape … it was something we tried to get prepared for. But it’s hard to prepare for a guy that’s underneath your legs when you’re trying to shoot the basketball.
“We talked to the officials about it and got no response.”
NUMBERS DON'T ALWAYS TELL THE STORY
A couple of other stats really stand out from this game. North Pulaski took 27 more shots than GCT. And, as a result, the offensive rebounding numbers paint a false picture.
With the Falcons missing so many shots, they naturally had more opportunities for offensive rebounds. That’s why their 20-7 advantage in that category actually means little. The fact is, the Falcons converted those into only nine second-chance points, the same as the Eagles.
All those extra missed shots, by the way, also allowed GCT to post a 30-17 advantage on the defensive glass. The two teams finished with 37 boards apiece.
ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE BALL…
North Pulaski’s defense was characteristically outstanding on Saturday. It was the only thing that kept them in the game at a time when their field goal percentage was hovering around single digits.
The Falcons forced 18 turnovers off nine steals. The problem was they made little hay out of them, converting those 18 GCT miscues into only 10 points.
MAKING THE MOST OUT OF A LITTLE
DaQuan Bryant picked up his third foul 49 seconds into the third period and his fourth 26 seconds into the final period. The result was only 20 minutes of action in a game in which the Falcons could have used him all 32.
Despite that, Bryant pulled down 15 rebounds, nearly one a minute. His eight offensive boards surpassed GCT’s seven. Bryant also scored 10 points and snagged four steals.